US 'It's not Satanism': Zimbabwe church leaders preach vaccines
Is Zimbabwe softening its hard line on crypto?
Zimbabwe’s finance minister recently extolled the potential for decentralised finance to lower remittance costs.The truly optimistic hoped he would become a champion of digital currencies.
SEKE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Yvonne Binda stands in front of a church congregation, all in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines.
“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The congregants, members of a Christian Apostolic church in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”
Anti-Vaxxers Could Fuel Spike in Childhood Diseases: 'It Will Be Horrific'
One in five Americans now say they're anti-vaxxers. As resistance expands beyond COVID, health experts call the potential impact 'extremely concerning.'The event is being replicated in some form or another in cities and towns across America, emblematic of a growing grassroots movement of people who believe that vaccine mandates—for COVID, yes, but increasingly for other diseases as well—are an affront to their personal freedom.
Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in Zimbabwe when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses.
Remnants of Black church uncovered in Colonial Williamsburg
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — The brick foundation of one of the nation's oldest Black churches has been unearthed at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum in Virginia that continues to reckon with its past storytelling about the country's origins and the role of Black Americans. The First Baptist Church was formed in 1776 by free and enslaved Black people. They initially met secretly in fields and under trees in defiance of laws that prevented African Americans from congregating. By 1818, the church had its first building in the former colonial capital. The 16-foot by 20-foot (5-meter by 6-meter) structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1834.
The congregants Binda addressed in the rural area of Seke sang about being protected by the holy spirit, but have at least acknowledged soap and masks as a defense against the coronavirus. Binda is trying to convince them to also get vaccinated — and that’s a tough sell.
How Is a Catholic Supposed to Think About the COVID Vaccine?
The Church’s official teaching on vaccines requires a kind of nuance missing from today’s public life.For that, they needed human cells. Like many laboratories, van der Eb’s used donated human remains expressly released for medical research. On this particular day in 1973, those human remains happened to belong to a girl aborted legally at 18 weeks by an anonymous woman at a teaching hospital in Leiden, the Netherlands. That woman had consented to the use of the body for scientific purposes.
Congregation leader Kudzanayi Mudzoki had to work hard to persuade his flock just to stay and listen to Binda speak about vaccines.
“They usually run away, some would hide in the bushes,” he said.
There has been little detailed research on Apostolic churches in Zimbabwe but UNICEF studies estimate it is the largest religious denomination with around 2.5 million followers in a country of 15 million. The conservative groups adhere to a doctrine demanding that followers avoid medicines and medical care and instead seek healing through their faith.
Conversely, Tawanda Mukwenga, another religious Zimbabwean, welcomed his vaccination as a means of allowing him to worship properly. Mukwenga recently attended Mass at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital, Harare, his first in-person Sunday Mass in 10 months after the pandemic closed churches and forced services online. Zimbabwe has reopened places of worship, though worshippers must be vaccinated to enter.
“Getting vaccinated has turned out to be a smart idea,” said Mukwenga, delighted to celebrate Mass at the cathedral again.
Some Chiropractors Fueled Vaccine Misinformation Long Before COVID, Investigation Reveals
"Mainstream medicine will refer people out to a chiropractor not knowing that they could be exposed to misinformation," a vaccine advocate said.The investigation revealed that during the pandemic, a "small but vocal minority" of chiropractors touted supplements as alternatives to vaccines, wrote doctor's notes to get patients out of vaccine mandates, donated money to anti-vaccine organizations and sold anti-vaccine ads on social media.
More than 80% of Zimbabweans identify as Christian, according to the national statistics agency, but the contrast in attitudes displayed by the Seke Apostolic members and Mukwenga means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to convincing hesitant religious citizens to get vaccinated.
While mandates — a blunt no vaccine, no entrance rule — is the way to go for some, there’s a subtler approach for the Apostolic and other anti-vaccine Pentecostal groups, partly, but not only, because they are deeply suspicious of vaccines.
Apostolic groups generally have no formal church premises and members, striking in the long white robes they wear to services, worship outdoors in open scrubland or hillsides, in locations widely spread across the country.
That makes gatherings much harder to police and mandates almost impossible to enforce.
Next on FDA's agenda: Booster shots of Moderna, J&J vaccines
WASHINGTON (AP) — With many Americans who got Pfizer vaccinations already rolling up their sleeves for a booster shot, millions of others who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine wait anxiously to learn when it's their turn. Federal regulators begin tackling that question this week. On Thursday and Friday, the Food and Drug Administration convenes its independent advisers for the first stage in the process of deciding whether extra shots of Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be dispensed and, if so, who should get them and when. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) Federal regulators begin tackling that question this week.
Binda is one of nearly 1,000 members of various religious groups recruited by the Zimbabwean government and UNICEF to try gently changing attitudes toward vaccines from within their own churches.
“We have to cajole them,” Binda said of her fellow Apostolic churchgoers. “Bit by bit they finally accept.”
But it’s rarely a quick conversion.
“We are accepting that the Holy Spirit may not be enough to deal with the virus,” Seke Apostolic leader Mudzoki said. “We are seriously considering vaccines because others have done it. But our members have always been wary of injections.
“So for now we need soap, buckets, sanitizers and masks," he said. "Those are the things that will help protect us.”
Anti-Mask Pastor Ordered to Preach Science and Pay $23,000 Fine
Justice Adam Germain suggested the pastor uses phrases such as "I am aware that the views I am expressing to you may not be held by medical experts."His brother Dawid and Christopher Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe, were also handed court decisions after all three were found in contempt of court convictions.
Churches have taken steps to address hesitancy in other parts of Africa. The United Methodist Church, based in the United States, plans to use a mass messaging platform to send text messages to the cellphones of around 32,000 followers in Ivory Coast, Congo, Liberia and Nigeria. The initial aim is to dispel disinformation.
“There’s quite a bit of messaging centered around reaffirming for people that the vaccine is safe, that it’s been tested,” said Ashley Gish of United Methodist Communications. “The ingredients are safe for use in humans and will not make you magnetic — that was a huge one that we heard from a lot of people.”
Gish said her church plans to send out more than 650,000 messages with a “pro-vaccine bias.” But the program will roll out over a few months in a process of “COVID sensitization” and the church is not demanding followers get the vaccine immediately, Gish said.
While slow and steady might be best in dealing with some religious hesitancy, the situation is urgent in Africa, which has the world's lowest vaccination rates. Zimbabwe has fully vaccinated 15% of its population, much better than many other African nations but still way behind the U.S. and Europe.
So Binda and her fellow campaigners are adaptable if it means changing attitudes a little bit quicker.
One problem they’ve encountered is stigmatization. Some church members are willing to get vaccinated but don’t because they fear being ostracized by peers and leaders. The phenomenon led to campaigners advising the government not to bring mobile clinics to secluded Apostolic groups like the one in Seke, fearing that a public show of vaccinations would do more harm than good.
Instead, vaccine campaigners who normally advocate for openness sometimes encourage secrecy.
Alexander Chipfunde, an Apostolic member and vaccine campaigner who works alongside Binda, told the Seke congregants there was a way to avoid stigmatization.
“Go to the hospital, get vaccinated and keep quiet about it," he said to them. "It’s your secret.”
Associated Press writer Holly Meyer in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.
Latino Catholics have one of the highest COVID vaccination rates in the United States .
Latino Catholics have embraced COVID-19 vaccines after a deadly year for Hispanics in the United States.This Sunday, however, more than 200 parishioners filled the pews, most of them masked and a majority vaccinated against the deadly virus. They swayed to Spanish-sung hymns and lined up for communion.